Monday, 23 November 2009

Church Leaders in Liverpool condemn homophobia

Updated Friday 27 November

Church Leaders in Liverpool have issued a joint statement condemning homophobia. The statement has come from the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, United Reformed and Baptist Churches and the Society of Friends (Quakers).

So far the statement has only been reported by Pink News, having apparently been overlooked or ignored by the local and national press.

Church leaders in Liverpool release ‘groundbreaking’ condemnation of homophobia

Here is the statement as quoted by Pink News.

The church leaders condemn this latest homophobic attack and extend their sympathy to James Parkes’ family.

We are concerned by the number of homophobic incidents on Merseyside.

The leaders of the churches in Liverpool believe it is wrong for anyone in the community of which we are all part to be victimised, or threatened with victimisation, on account of their race, creed, colour or sexual orientation.

We affirm our commitment to work with others to build a community where all can have their place of belonging, feel welcome and live in safety.

As church leaders, we represent a rich variety of Christian traditions, with different perspectives on some issues, but we stand together in condemning the use of violence and other forms of intimidation against minority groups who are especially vulnerable.

The city of Liverpool has a long tradition of welcoming people of difference. In the past we have discovered, sometimes painfully, the importance of learning to live peacefully together. This lesson we must never forget.

The Liverpool church leaders include the Rt Revd James Jones (Bishop of Liverpool, Anglican), the Most Revd Patrick Kelly (Archbishop of Liverpool, Roman Catholic), the Revd Jim Booth (Methodist), the Revd Howard Sharp (URC) and the Revd Phil Jump (Baptist).

Update The statement is now online at the Diocese of Liverpool’s website: Statement from the Church Leaders in Liverpool. This makes it clear that the statement came from the Presidents of Churches Together in the Merseyside Region, ie the five church leaders listed above plus the local Salvation Commander, Major Michael Highton.

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Comments

I don't know, but I anticipate that this statement will be greeted with wildly enthusiastic indifference by the local lgbt community.

Most lgbts see religion and religious institutions as the source of their problems and not the solution. Most lgbts see religious leaders and institutions as enablers of the violence and discrimination that they face. They're not stupid. They have to live with the consequences of solemn pronouncements that put a qualifying asterisk on their humanity, and that declare their relationships and families as illegitimate.

I've seen these sorts of statements before, and I have to ask, is this really about the welfare of the local gay community, or is it about religious institutions trying to protect themselves? Do they really care about the freedom and dignity of gay folk, or are they trying to distance themselves from the blood oozing in their direction?

All the press statements and declarations in the world, no matter how artfully written, are not going to change a thing until those same religious institutions clearly and unequivocally accept the full humanity of gays and lesbians and the legitimacy of their relationships.

Posted by: Counterlight on Monday, 23 November 2009 at 1:17pm GMT

Counterlight is spot on. When these folks turn the fingers of their statement on themselves and the institutions they represent, we'll be getting somewhere. It's easy to put out public condemnations of this sort because they don't implicate those putting out the statements. Much harder to reflect on one's own part in the violence.

Posted by: Christopher on Monday, 23 November 2009 at 2:50pm GMT

Well, I think that many lesbians and gays will view the statement as a beginning. It's hardly "radical" but it at least has the bulk of the community's faith leadership saying violence is wrong. It's a start.

Kurt
Brooklyn USA

Posted by: Kurt on Monday, 23 November 2009 at 5:06pm GMT

I'd still rather they condemned the violence than not condemn it!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 23 November 2009 at 5:07pm GMT

I have to agree with Counterlight and Christopher, I must say.

We don't expect much from the Churches

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Monday, 23 November 2009 at 5:28pm GMT

DAZE/DAYS LATE!

Michael Causer was murdered DURING The Lambeth Conference last year (a little over a year ago) in Liverpool, England...the Archbishop of Canterbury breezed along with his anti-LGBT hufftalk (excluding Bishop Robinson for extra measure) and his fantasyland views on appropriate exclusion of LGBT Anglicans at ALL levels of Anglican Communion life while life support came to a DEAD END in Liverpool. Nice the ¨clergyfolk¨ of Liverpool have finally pulled their sense of decency together and issued a statement (after yet another Gay person was brutally attacked)...where or where are Archbishop Rowan and Archbishop John, Lord of York and Ugandan refugee, as genocide is being instigated in UGANDA for LGBT Anglicans/others? Perhaps after the first several thousand ¨Gay¨ innocent Ugandans are murdered/jailed we´ll have a anti-pogrom statement reflecting MORAL HIGHGROUND at The Anglican Communion? Don´t hold your breath, we might suffocate and die.

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Monday, 23 November 2009 at 6:27pm GMT

Nothing much wrong with the public statement as such, of course; condeming homophobia is one of the fastest reactions we all get from church leaders, the moment any bloodied queer folks show up on the doorsteps. Tsk, tsk, tsk, just awful, we can always predict leaders will say. This popular reply is surely high on the reply list, perhaps topped only by that other familiar reply ... yawn, silence. Round the edges of the traditional silence-invisibility-powerlessness, we can always infer whispers of, Well that queer person must have brought it on himself or herself, oh my, when will those queer folks learn?

The little devils of this instance are all in the details of what religious nasty stuff is going to be preached about queer folks as the context coming from nearly all the religious groups mentioned (excepting, God bless 'em, the Society of Friends?). Those devils, details, that context all predict a self-preening holiness triad of regular church life prejudice, garden variety church life discrimination and/or most unwelcome yet properly gleeful mistreatment, and yes, outright violence. We cannot keep preaching awful, sadistic flat earth nonsense about queer folks as well as family members or friends or whatnot, and not expect to sooner or later attract sadists, now can we?

Prayers for the latest global victims, and that is a plural S sadly.

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 23 November 2009 at 6:35pm GMT

...and isn't this statement still an improvement over the deafening silence on the Ugandan anti-gay bill?

Posted by: ghm on Monday, 23 November 2009 at 8:22pm GMT

"I've seen these sorts of statements before, and I have to ask, is this really about the welfare of the local gay community, or is it about religious institutions trying to protect themselves? Do they really care about the freedom and dignity of gay folk, or are they trying to distance themselves from the blood oozing in their direction?" - Counterlight -

Let's not be too dismissive of this statement by the Liverpool Churches. For instance, can you imagine what this sort of statement from the Heads of Churches in Nigeria and Uganda could do for the countries concerned - not to mention the governments of those countries proposed action against the LGBT community?

Rather than faint paranoia, we should follow up the statement with a concerted effort by the interested parties (including Church members who are most intimately involved) to increase the awareness of the wider Church need to affirm the action of Liverpool Church Leaders, by supporting the statement.

At least, Liverpool is alert to the situation facing homophobia; and other cities, councils and Churches need to rise up in support of LGBTs.
Let's not knock the positive efforts of people to draw attention to injustice.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 23 November 2009 at 8:26pm GMT

Yes, it's quite pathetic and shameful to see that leaders such as the Presiding Bishops of the Episcopal Church USA and The Archbishop of Canterbury remain wrapped in a cloud of fog and silence when it comes to attacks like this and the unethical and violent proposals of the new Uganda laws that will bring genocide to glbt people. The bigots of organized religions of all persuasions bring violence and hatred to the table when it comes to glbt issues.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Monday, 23 November 2009 at 9:42pm GMT

The Archbishop of Canterbury and other Anglican prelates owe an apology to the glbt community in regards to their continued silence on the proposed genocidal anti-glbt Uganda laws. There is blood on their hands if they fail to speak out against these draconian measures. I think some ACTIVE and very PUBLIC picketing of these Anglican prelates is in order. They must be shamed into ACTION! Yes, Liverpool has shown some moral backbone on homophobia and I take my hat off to them. This however is simply NOT enough.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Monday, 23 November 2009 at 10:04pm GMT

When it comes to statements from religious leaders, all gays and lesbians around the world are citizens of Missouri whose state motto is SHOW ME.

Posted by: Counterlight on Monday, 23 November 2009 at 10:59pm GMT

Violence against glbt people is only the outward and visible sign of the inward spiritual malady of homophobia and heterosexism. That those with the chronic malady point fingers at those with the acute form is just a way to make themselves feel better. It is not therapy, but self-medication for a dysfunctional system.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 23 November 2009 at 11:36pm GMT

Clergy signing or "supporting" statements against violence, whether in Liverpool, Wyoming, or Uganda, is a sop. If they want to do their part to stop violence, they should start marrying gay church members who want to be married. Also employing, ordaining, consecrating without qualifications not imposed on straights. If they don't want to do that they should just state that they are sorry for people's troubles, but do not intend to get involved at the moment. These people need to trim their fringes.

Posted by: anthony on Tuesday, 24 November 2009 at 5:18am GMT


I think this quite an important debate.

If we accept this condemnation in the spirit Erica suggests are we not allowing these people to escape from the fact that some of these groups have teachings that attack and undermine gay families and are even today calling for their execution?

Should we not hold English Anglicans, Catholics and others to account for the actions and words of their brothers and sisters elsewhere?

Elsewhere? I do not think we have far to travel. The statements of the Catholic bishops in the west are increasingly hostile and violent while the bishop of Winchester's speeches in the House of Lords are offensive and contrary to the letter and spirit of the Dromantine Anathema

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 24 November 2009 at 11:43am GMT

Martin
To be honest, I'm not really sure what spirit of acceptance I'm suggesting.

In the Uganda debate we have been scandalised that our own hierarchies have remained silent but we have been encouraged by the fact that some evangelical groups who oppose homosexuality have nevertheless spoken out against the proposed law.

Was that a wrong response to their speaking out?
Is there only a "unless you think as I do you might as well count among the worst for all the damage you're doing"?

On the other hand, of course, crocodile tears and mere lip-services don't inspire any kind of trust and don't further genuine inclusion, worse, encourage and sustain a climate of inequality and hatred.

So what is the right response?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 24 November 2009 at 1:39pm GMT

I'd rather not pile on Erika.
She's right. Speaking out against this violence is better than silence or worse.
My contention is that it is not enough. At best, it is a first step. It becomes institutional self-protection when that first step is also the last step.

Posted by: Counterlight on Tuesday, 24 November 2009 at 6:38pm GMT

I am glad that the faith groups in Liverpool have come together to make their statement in support of LGBT folk in Liverpool. As many say it is a beginning, and needs now to be taken up by faith groups throught the Uk. Then we need to see positive action of acknowledgement of the value of LGBT in the faith groups as active members. So many are in these faith groups, but feel they must keep their sexuality a private matter for fear of being ignored by the pharisaical few.. If all of us in the Anglican/Roman church stepped out in one body, the Archbishops would need smelling salts!! They know they depend on faithful priests and laity who are gay/lesbian, and faithfully worship week by week to remain faithful to Christ for the future life of the church.

Uganda cries out to us all, we cannot ignore theoir cries, and as Christian they are our brothers and sisters in Christ

Fr John

Posted by: Fr John E. Harris-White on Tuesday, 24 November 2009 at 6:45pm GMT

"On the other hand, of course, crocodile tears and mere lip-services don't inspire any kind of trust and don't further genuine inclusion, worse, encourage and sustain a climate of inequality and hatred. So what is the right response?
- Erika Baker, on Tuesday -

Erika, I believe your response to all of this is quite credible. When we are reduced to systemic criticism of the action of Church Leaders who do actually speak out against violence towards the LGBT community, we rather tend to obscure our real and laudable aim - to moblise further public statements from our Church Leaders, to the point where the public really begins to take on board - and expect - the Church to actually do something about the endemic culture of homophobia.

Our aim ought to be the encouragement of more - not less - statements of disquiet from our Church Leaders, so that the public may be brought to a place where discrimination is no longer able to be considered a legitimate attitude towards the LGBT community.

In time - even with a gullible public audience - the hypocrisy of Church Leaders who condemn homophobia, while secretly embracing it themselves will be exposed for what it is. It that not preferable to LGBT criticism of public statement made on our behalf - even if they come from the very people in the Church who speak but do little on our behalf?

I see the anti-gay speeches of +Winchester, and the activities of FOCA, CANA & ACNA as being far more destructive of hopes for LGBT Inclusivity within the Church and the World, than the - at least outwardly helpful -talk of 'hands-off gays' from other Churchmen. The unreconstructed agenda of the Global South afficionados is far more damaging than a few clerics speaking out about the injustice of society towards gays.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 24 November 2009 at 9:09pm GMT

I think Erika gives a very good account of her (and others) dilemma. It is, to a large extent, an old argument.

I think other comments here are helpful too.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 11:29am GMT

I am not in disagreement with Erika, in that a statement is better than silence, and the statement that was made is better than it might have been and is surely not harmful. But I will not sit up and take notice until the church leaders clean their own houses. Cleaaning their own houses is what they are responsible for, the task they have been assigned. And their own houses are the only houses they are really able to clean. The best of the prophets from Amos to Gandhi learned with their mothers' milk the trite but inescapable insight that actions speak louder than words.

Posted by: anthony on Thursday, 26 November 2009 at 2:54am GMT

As someone else said above, the right response is "Show me."

However, I think there are solid reasons for welcoming this statement as a good start, as I argue on CIF today

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/nov/26/liverpool-homophobia-bishops

Posted by: Dave Rattigan on Thursday, 26 November 2009 at 12:40pm GMT

I would agree, Dave. Within the Liverpool context this is progress indeed

When I was in the Church I liaised regularly with Bishop James and I do think his stance has softened significantly

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 27 November 2009 at 1:05am GMT

"Church leaders may have a way to go, and I won't make excuses for the homophobia that still dominates religion, but nor am I ready to dismiss this one as just another sop to the PC crowd. Making excuses is not necessary to be able to acknowledge and support religious leaders when they make genuinely positive and conciliatory steps towards ending homophobia"
- Dave Rattigan: Guardian Comments -

Precisely my point, Dave. And a very good article indeed. If we who support the LGBT community omit to be aware of the value of such statements from our religious leaders, then we have only ourselves to blame if they cease from the effort.

The more people who bring homophobia and its impact on the community into the lime-light, the more the public will be educated, and - eventually - the speakers will be held to account for their expressions of support. On the other hand, if Church Leaders do not speak our (as witness the silence on the Uganda debacle) then the general public may see this as indifference - and therefore unworthy of taking notice, which they must, in the circumstances.

Let's all encourage our Leaders when they do something right; not criticise them. Thank God for the Liverpool inititative - happening in a place where homophobia is a real problem.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 27 November 2009 at 10:46pm GMT
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